Three things to watch for US national team vs. Belgium

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With Jurgen Klinsmann’s side facing Belgium in Cleveland tonight at the FirstEnergy Stadium, (8pm ET, ESPN) the USMNT manager has already revealed some of the starters ahead of the clash.

But there is still plenty to discuss in the friendly with one of Europe’s best sides, with the Red Devils’ young crop of superstars taking European soccer by storm.

So let’s take a look at three things US fans should watch out for.

1. Biggest test yet for blossoming partnership of Gonzalez and Besler

These two shone at the Azteca against Mexico City in March. But Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler must now prove that a shutout against Mexico wasn’t a one off and that they’re the key partnership going forward for the US national team. Both have been playing well, without causing any headlines, for the LA Galaxy and Sporting KC respectively. The duo will now have to take care of Christian Benteke, Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku and Maroune Felliani. Gonzalez will take first knock and Besler is tremendous at sweeping up the play behind his central defensive partner. They could well be under pressure for large periods tonight. Klinsmann will learn a lot from the performance of these two inexperienced defenders.

2. Can Sacha Kljestan finally stake his claim as a regular for the US?

Playing in Belgium, for the Belgian champions Anderlecht, it’s quite apt that Kljestan will get his chance to shine in the stars and stripes against his adopted country on Wednesday night. Klinsmann said yesterday that Klestan will start with Jermaine Jones in midfield. The 27-year-old’s cool head on the ball will mirror Michael Bradley’s influence on the USMNT’s midfield… whether Kljestan can live up to that comparison is another thing. He hasn’t scored many this season, but that’s not really his game and he’s been virtually ever present as Anderlecht won yet another trophy. However I would like to see more decisive balls and shots in the final third from Kljestan. Tonight is a huge night for him if he wants to be a starter.

3. Will Jozy Altidore transform his goals for AZ Alkmaar to the US national team?

We all know how tremendous Altidore has played this season in Holland. 31 goals, a Dutch Cup and a place in the Dutch League team of the year is impressive. But after 55 games for the US, Altidore would certainly like to improve on his tally of 13 goals. If Altidore starts tonight after being released by AZ Alkmaar, he will likely come up against two of the EPL’s best defenders in Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen. Playing on their shoulder and using his pace will be vital. With Kljestan in the middle and Zusi out wide, those guys can thread balls through to Jozy to run onto. If he plays well, the US will win. As is often the case, Altidore is the man to watch.

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